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If you are familiar with Polkadot, then you may not have a hard time understanding what and how Kusama works. Our previous publication covers everything you need to know about Polkadot, a new blockchain variant.

The interesting part in all of these is that Kusama is built using the same code base and structure as Polkadot, which makes both almost identical except for a few differences.

Just before we explain what Kusama is, let’s take a moment to briefly describe Polkadot. First, Polkadot is a type of blockchain system, and it’s a variant to other prominent ones including Ethereum, Flow, Binance Smart Chain, Cosmos (ATOM), and IBM blockchain, among several others.

In its own case, Polkadot is built to operate two types of chain systems, the same model used by Kusama. The first is called a relay chain, which doubles as a main network where transactions are permanent, and the second, a user-created network dubbed as parachains. 

Primarily, Pokadolt’s parachain is aimed at developers, allowing them to customise new on-chain projects which leverage the main network’s infrastructure i.e, its security as well as the nominated proof of stake system.

Generally, Polkadot, unlike most blockchain systems seeks to incentivise a network of computers to operate a blockchain system on which they can launch other on-chain projects. So what is Kusama, and its relationship with polkadot?

What is Kusama?

Kusuma is a blockchain system that launched as an early version of the same code used to build polkadot. However, it primarily functions as a testnet for other blockchain projects prior to public launch, such as the transition to Polkadot. 

In some cases, Kusama is often described as a sandbox for developers looking to test early versions of on-chain applications that will eventually be publicly launched on the Polkadot network. In this manner, upgrades meant for Polkadot are also tested on Kusama before it is enacted on Polkadot main network.

Notably, the distinction between Kusama and Polkadot is very little, not to even mention that both were co-founded by Gavin Wood who is also a co-founder of Ethereum. Specifically, Wood founded Kusama alongside Peter Czaban and Robert Habermeier.

However, while both Kusama, and Polkadot shares identical underlying architecture such as the same multichain, and heterogeneously-sharded design based on Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS), both are independent and standalone networks with different priorities.

Similar to Polkadot, Kusuma features key innovations like on-chain governance, hot-swappable runtime for a forkless upgrade, Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP) for interoperability, as well as on-chain upgrades.

Also, following the same principle as the majority of other blockchain systems out there, Kusama governance protocol is designed to be decentralised, and permissionless, distributing authority to the holders of the platform’s native digital token – KSM.

In terms of differences, Kusama provides more flexibility and speed due to its primary role as a testnet for Polkadot applications. Speed in this case, however, doesn’t mean that Kusama’s blockchain is faster in the sense of block time or transaction processing time. Instead, the speed in this context refers to how long it takes for governance protocol to be fulfilled.

For instance, due to its modified governance parameters, Kusama takes only seven days for token holders to vote and another seven days for it to be enacted on the network. On the contrary, voting on Poladit lasts for 28 days while it takes an additional 28 for it to be enacted, which makes it four times slower than Kusama in this regard.

Furthermore, consumers are subjected to less severe governance regulations on Kusama, as opposed to Polkadot, which has tougher standards.

How does Kusama works?

As mentioned above, Kusama makes use of two types of chain system which include ‘relay chain,’ a main network for permanent transactions, and another user-generated parachain. The latter can be customised to serve any purpose while leveraging the relay chain for transactions. Also, parachain can connect and disconnect back to the network, giving that the connection is established on a subscription basis.

You may be wondering what’s the importance of the relay chain, and why it’s different from the conventional blockchains which mostly use a supply chain? Well, Kusama employes the relay chain system in an attempt to achieve greater speed, and as such separates the addition of new transactions from the validation process which ordinarily is interlinked.

There is, however, more to the relay chain, being the core functional aspect of the blockchain explorer. As stated earlier, Kusama relay chain employs a consensus known as Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) which is a variation of the conventional Proof of Stake (PoS).

The NPoS consensus model allows anyone who has staked the Kusama governance token – KSM to participate not only in the platform’s governance but also engage in other activities including validation and nomination processes on the platform.

As a validator, a KSM holder can validate data in the parachain blocks, as well as participate in the voting system by voting for or against a proposed modification on the network. 

A KSM holder can as well act as a nominator, ensuring that the relay chain is protected by designating trustworthy validators. As a result, the staked KSM coins of nominators are delegated to validators, who are also allocated the nominators’ votes.

More so, users who perform either of the above roles are entitled to receive incentives in form of additional KSM tokens.

How does Kusama governance works?

Fundamentally, there are two other ways to participate in Kusama governance other than having to hold and stake KSM tokens, making three in total. Users can participate in blockchain governance whether through the ‘Referendum chamber,’ ‘the council,’ or perhaps through the ‘technical committee.’

The Referendum chamber consists of anyone who is in possession of the KSM token. This set of people can propose as well as vote for or against new modifications.

The Council on the other hand consists of members who are elected by KSM holders. They are responsible for proposing as well as determining which changes proposed by KSM holders get to be enacted to the software.

The Technical Committee which is the third one is composed of developers who are constantly building Kusama. This set of people are voted by the council members and are eligible to make and effect special proposals as a matter of emergency. 

Ultimately, Kusama is a pre-production environment, that allows developers teams to test on-chain projects out in a live, fully decentralised, and community-controlled network. The added advantage is that they get to demonstrate with real-world conditions and lower stakes in the event of problems or bugs than on Polkadot.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.